Finding a place to live when you’ve got a criminal record isn’t an easy task, and while most offenders understand that a felony conviction will often lead to rejection, many are surprised when their rental application is rejected because of a misdemeanor. Can an apartment reject you for misdemeanors, and isn’t that unfair discrimination?
Unfortunately, it’s not discrimination, and yes, apartment owners are completely within their rights to reject you if they find a misdemeanor conviction on your background report.
Let’s get some more information and then look at steps you can take that will help you find an apartment even though you’ve got a misdemeanor on your record.
Why Can An Apartment Reject You For Misdemeanors in 2023?
With so much focus on non-discrimination these days, it’s easy to assume that non-discrimination applies to everything and even extends to criminal convictions.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Non-discrimination legislation only applies to protected characteristics, which are race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, family status, age, and disability.
As a convicted offender with a misdemeanor, non-discrimination laws don’t offer you any protection, and a landlord or property manager can look at your misdemeanor and decide to reject your rental application solely on the grounds of your conviction.
This rejection can be because of perceived safety issues on the landlord’s part, or it can be because of conditions in the landlord’s insurance policy.
Because almost every landlord or property manager will make you fill out a rental application (with a fee) and agree to a background check, your criminal record will more than likely pop up. You can’t hide from it.
The only exceptions will be when state law has limited how far back a rental background check can go, if the landlord limits how far back they search, or if they allow misdemeanors over a certain age.
For example, an apartment complex could have a policy that agrees to rent to applicants with misdemeanors that took place at least 3 years ago.
Recent Article: Apartment Background Check
How Far Back Does A Rental Background Check Typically Go?
A rental background check comprises several checks which together make up the background report.
- Employment history
- Rental history and eviction search
- Credit check
- Credit score (optional)
- Criminal history (usually includes sex offender registry search)
A tenant background check is a consumer report, and all consumer reports are regulated by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The FCRA limits some checks to 7 years (employment, credit, and rental history), but there’s no FCRA limit on how far back a criminal records search can go.
Your state, county, or city may have put a limit in place, though. For example, in Oakland, California, the 2020 Fair Chance Housing Ordinance doesn’t allow landlords to ask about criminal convictions or to run criminal history background checks.
Some types of housing, like duplexes and triplexes, are exempt from the legislation, and landlords can still run sexual offender registry searches. Following Oaklands’ lead, Berkeley introduced similar legislation.
Fire up your search engine and check on housing laws for your state or county. Legislators now realize that housing discrimination is a major factor in recidivism (re-offending) and discrimination based on criminal history has a disproportionate effect on African Americans. Change comes slowly, but slow change is better than no change at all.
In states where there are no limits on the period a rental criminal history background check can cover, the report could go back 10 years, which is a fairly common period, or it could go back for your entire adult history.
These states have placed a 7-year limit on criminal history background checks:
- New Hampshire
- New Mexico
- New York
How To Find A Landlord That Accepts Misdemeanors
While landlords and property managers will usually reject applicants when a felony shows up on their background report, some will rent to applicants with a misdemeanor on their record – depending on the type of offense.
Before you fill out a rental application and pay the application fee, be upfront about your misdemeanor and ask if it’s going to be a problem.
Sometimes you’ll get a straightforward yes or no, other times you’ll be told that you need to fill out the application and go through the background check before they can give you an answer.
And that can get expensive when application fees are in the $40 to $50 range.
It costs you nothing but time to call apartment complexes in your area and ask if they’ll rent to you with your misdemeanor.
An alternative way to find landlords willing to rent you an apartment when you’ve got a misdemeanor on your record is to use an apartment finder.
Using A Second Chance Apartment Finder
Second-chance apartment finders are usually licensed real estate agents offering a free service to people looking for an apartment. The service is free to you because the agent receives a finder’s fee from the apartment owner for placing a tenant.
Some agents will even give you part of that fee as an incentive to use their service, and they may offer to give you $100 – $150 when you sign a lease.
You can find an apartment finder in your area by running a quick search online for “second chance apartment finders” followed by your city. Other places to search include Craigslist and Facebook.
When you call or go to the apartment finder’s website, make sure that they deal with criminal convictions because of some only deal with bad credit or tenants with a problematic rental history.
On the website, you’ll find the steps you need to follow to work with the agent.
You’ll be asked to fill out a short contact form or to call the agent directly. The agent will usually ask you for details about your misdemeanor conviction, and they’ll want to carry out a background check so they don’t run into any surprises.
There’s no reason to hide any of your conviction histories because the agent will waste time approaching unsuitable landlords if you do.
Second chance apartment finders maintain databases of landlords and property managers willing to accept renters with various types of criminal backgrounds, whether that’s at the felony or a misdemeanor level.
The agent will normally call the apartment manager for you and give them the details about your misdemeanor, your employment situation and income, and your rental history.
If they get a positive response, they’ll recommend the apartment to you, and you can apply to know that you won’t be turned down.
By using an apartment finder, you’ll save yourself a ton of time and wasted rental application fees because you’ll only apply to landlords that the agent knows will rent to someone in your position.
Find Out If Your Misdemeanor Can Be Expunged
Expungement is the process where an eligible offense is sealed, essentially wiping it off your record. When a misdemeanor record is expunged, private background reports, which include employment and rental background checks, will not discover the crime, and your past record won’t continue to make your life difficult.
The record may still be visible to government agencies and licensing bodies, though.
Crimes eligible for expungement vary from state to state, and misdemeanors involving violence may be ineligible for expungement.
A first step you can take if you’re interested in finding out if your offense can be expunged is to look up a list of misdemeanors eligible for expungement in the state where you were convicted.
But a faster method is to use the expungement eligibility test at Record Gone. https://www.recordgone.com/eligibility/
The eligibility test is a quick series of “yes/no” answer questions, and it only takes a few minutes to complete.
Simply choose the state where you received your misdemeanor conviction, then answer each question. Each question has a panel with explanations to help you understand the question so you can provide an accurate answer.
Once you’ve answered all the questions, you’ll see a result that tells you if your misdemeanor record is eligible for expungement. You’ll also see a price if your expungement will be a straightforward matter based on the information you provided.
We make no recommendation about the record expungement services provided by Record Gone, but the expungement eligibility test is a quick way to find out where you stand. You don’t need to make an account to run the test and it’s free.
Then it’s up to you to contact expungement lawyers to get more concrete details and some cost estimates.
When you’re evaluating expungement lawyers, ask which databases they guarantee to remove your record from.
When an experienced expungement lawyer handles your case, you won’t usually need to attend a court hearing, and as long as you can pay the fee, your record should be sealed by the court in around 90 days.
Rental background checks are widely used by landlords and property managers, and these checks include a criminal record search.
Can an apartment reject you for misdemeanors? Yes. Even though misdemeanors won’t always lead to rejection, landlords can legally reject you if they feel that because of your past crime, you may present the possibility of danger to their property or to their other tenants.
Always ask about their policy towards misdemeanors before you pay the application fee.
To save yourself time and disappointment, use a second chance apartment finder who will contact landlords willing to rent to you based on the type of misdemeanor on your record and how long ago you received your conviction.
For a longer-term solution, find out if your misdemeanor can be expunged.
Related Article: List of Apartment For Felons in Dallas TX
Robert Eric (a lover of Cats and Dogs) is the co-founder of HireFelonsJobs. In our search for a better life, after… A platform was created for the purpose of easing the search for ex-convicts.